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W.Va. Corrections Day at the Legislature marked by Freedom Awards for Distinguished Service

 Press release from the W.Va. Military Affairs and Public Safety with video from the Governor’s Communications Hub:

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Intercepting smuggled drugs, going the distance for at-risk youth and soldiering on after a horrific crash are just some of the actions recognized Friday with Freedom Awards for Distinguished Service during Corrections Day at the Legislature.

The 10 recipients are the second group so honored by Military Affairs and Public Safety Secretary Jeff Sandy, and the first since West Virginia’s prison, jail and juvenile services systems were consolidated into the Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation. 

The secretary’s Freedom Award recognizes employees for performance that exceed the normal expectations involved in their duties and responsibilities.

“What you do in West Virginia is protect freedom,” Sandy told the honorees, their family members and others who gathered for Friday’s award ceremony. “You maintain the freedom for our people to live their lives without worry.”

The honorees also took part in floor ceremonies in both the Senate and House of Delegates and received citations declaring Friday as Corrections Day. Representatives from Corrections delivered the opening prayer in each chamber, and the Corrections and Rehabilitation Honor Guard presented the colors to open the House floor session.

Recipients of the 2019 Secretary’s Freedom Award for Distinguished Service:


Category: Correctional Officer

Matthew Duncan, Correctional Officer II, Salem Correctional Center, for helping to thwart an attempt to smuggle contraband during an inmate visit, by picking up on discussions of the scheme.


Category: Correctional Officer, Juvenile Services

Lt. William Reed, Correctional Officer V, Robert Shell Juvenile Center, for consistently leading by example at his facility and inspiring those around him to follow his example.


Category: Community-Based Employee

Jacquelin Martin, Senior Corrections Program Specialist, Wood County Youth Reporting Center, for her leadership and mentoring at her facility and in her community. Martin is a certified recovery coach who teaches mental health first aid. Her efforts on behalf of her youths include driving them to and from their AA meetings and convincing the mother of one juvenile to seek addiction treatment on behalf of her family.


Category: Facility Superintendent

Craig Roberts, interim Superintendent, Stevens Correctional Center, for calmly and effectively leading the response to a possible Fentanyl contraband exposure that coincided with a visit by agency and department leaders to this contract facility.


Category: Field Support Staff

Melissa Richmond, Unit Manager, Beckley Correctional Center, whose keen eye and quick thinking intercepted an attempt to sneak several bags of illegal drugs into her facility. Richmond is also fighting substance use disorders as a certified Criminal Justice Addictions Professional, a certified Cognitive Behavior Intervention-Substance Abuse trainer and the elected secretary of the West Virginia Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors.

Category: Headquarters Support Staff

Jonathan Huffman, Corrections Program Manager I, IT department, for going above and beyond to integrate the emerging network of short-term holding centers with the division’s booking processes. Huffman has repeatedly provided after-hours assistance to ensure smooth and accurate intakes and releases.


Category: Investigations

Lucas Roper, Investigator II, for doggedly working the largest caseload in the investigations section. Roper is the sole investigator based in the Eastern Panhandle. Roper has developed cases involving inmate deaths, assaults and contraband smuggling.


Category: Parole Officer

Robert Sovine, Probation and Parole Officer I, for responding to gunfire outside the Beckley Parole Office. Sovine helped disarm and secure a male suspect, provide first aid to a shooting victim, and assist on-scene and responding law enforcement.


Category: Special Operations

Sgt. Eric Harron, Correctional Officer IV, for successfully overseeing such assignments as the transfer of Anthony Correctional Center inmates, a mass transport of suspects apprehended during a drug task force operation in Parkersburg, and support for the campaign rally by President Trump in Wheeling.


Category: Special Recognition – “Gung Ho” Award

Eric Dotson, Correctional Officer II, North Central Regional Jail, for inspiring his colleagues at Corrections, within DMAPS and beyond with his continuing perseverance and commitment to service. Dotson was returning from a hospital transport after a 12-hour shift in September 2015 when his state vehicle was struck by a truck. Dotson suffered severe and permanent injuries. Even after enduring multiple surgeries, he qualified for lifetime disability. He instead chose to return to duty. That road has been far from easy, but he lives by principles that compel him to see things through and finish the job.



The governor’s communications hub has posted a video of the award ceremony:



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